Because I could not ignore this show no matter how much we all wanted to, I have reviewed STALKER at The AV Club. I don’t know if the title is intended to be in allcaps all the time, but it suits the tone of the show, so we’ll leave it. It is pretty much exactly what you would expect, except with more explicit discussion of why a man’s justified in staring at a woman’s chest, which was certainly an unexpected B-plot for a pilot, but there we have it. (This is not the first time I have discussed the terrible depiction of persistence-as-romance on TV; I also wrote an essay for them about “The Full Boyle,” Brooklyn 99’s saddest first-season subplot, which I hope has since been jettisoned forever, because that trope is All Done, thanks.)

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Also up at AV Club: my Boardwalk Empire recap for last night’s episode, “Cuanto,” which had one of my favorite scenes in the last two seasons, and one I always hoped we’d get: a settling of grievances between Nucky and Margaret where they’re both able to be honest without descending into the bitterness of the weights they drag with them. And it actually happened, which is almost unspeakably rare on this show. (And no stalking at all, which could have been a serious problem with Nucky involved.) Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald are both fantastic, and together they’ve been wonderful even when their subplot was grinding its gears; with something this great to work with, they run the gamut of tentative reconnection beautifully. The rest of the episode was either perfunctory or too neat, but sometimes a thing happens on this show and you are just happy to see it. Margaret able to have her say, and Nucky admitting what we’ve all always known about his savior complex without demanding anything for his generosity, was an important reckoning (in a season that should probably be speeding up with those, actually given that the show now only has four episodes left).

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Over at NPR, I reviewed Love is the Drug, the newest YA novel from Alaya Dawn Johnson, that features a pandemic, a sexy loner crush object, and the complex social hierarchies of adolescence, which range from the bluntly stated to the more insidious They Might Think.

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And at Strange Horizons, I have a new essay up! “And Was Obliged to Go On Dancing”: The Red Shoes and the Chastised Woman discusses the Red Shoes fairy tale in the context of the story’s markers about the humiliation of women to make them more desirable (to God or otherwise), and the ways in which that context has become a standard storytelling tactic, particularly in the modern romcom, in which women that are interested in themselves are humiliated just enough to become more interested in a man’s approval. Happy endings all around, I guess. It’s strange to think that the most honest adaptation of it I’ve seen is the utterly astounding children’s theater version in which Andersen is a monster who browbeats Karen into begging for forgiveness for the sake of an emotionless doll who’s been punished and punished and punished. If you can find it online, where I’m sure it’s floating around, it’s every bit as amazing as it sounds; of all the things I’ve brought with me from childhood, that one never loses its power. (Hilariously, it is probably not particularly suitable for children.)

And the idea of humiliating and torturing women for entertainment brings things right back around to STALKER, so I’ll just wrap with this lead quote that didn’t make it into the final review, from Kevin Williamson’s TCA press event for the show. During an answer in which he mentioned he looked forward to the storyline in which one of the protagonists is a stalker: “There’s more reveals to come with that storyline, and it will be fun to sort of watch when does he cross the line. We all can be stalkers. We’ve all stalked someone at one time.”